With the optimism of a new century, the British composer Edward Elgar set about his grand Symphony No 1 in 1901, its theme of ‘unity’ oblivious to the forthcoming war. ‘Gentlemen, let us now rehearse the greatest symphony of modern times, written by the greatest modern composer - and not only in this country’, said the conductor Hans Richter when he rehearsed it for its Manchester premier in 1908.
Its striding melodies, powerful orchestration and scale make it an overwhelmingly moving piece to hear live. At this Prom it is preceded by the tumultuous Sibelius Violin Concerto, written at almost exactly the same time.
In contrast to the contented English country gentleman Elgar, the Finnish composer was fighting a drink problem, but there is nothing of his insecurity in this concerto. Ferociously difficult for the soloist – here the Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili – its yearning melodies and rich colours have all the scale of Sibelius’s symphony.
Founded in 1570 to entertain the Brandenburg court, the Staatskapelle Berlin is one of the oldest orchestras in the world. Previous conductors included the composer Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and Herbert von Karajan. Barenboim was in 2000 voted by the players its conductor for life. Says Batiashvili: ‘You don’t experience two similar concerts with them. Something new happens every time.’
General booking opens Saturday 13 May, 9:00
|What||Prom 2: Staatskapelle Berlin, Royal Albert Hall|
|Where||Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
On 15 Jul 17, 7:30 PM – 9:40 PM
|Price||£6 - £70|